Blog entry by Alan Chapman
Using a Systemic Approach to Management
The latest tools in management promote personal responsibility, coaching, leadership and so on. However rarely within management approaches is an organisational development approach understood or utilised.
It has to raise the question for managers around “What are we missing?”. The answer is clear we are missing the whole organisation, we are simply up close and personal with our own department and its agenda.
When we are neglecting a systemic view of management, we skip the understanding of what we are inheriting and its impact on us, our team, the potential of our organisation and how we go about meeting our goals.
As managers, it is important to see beyond our immediate demands and to formulate understandings of the systemic impacts.
Firstly, it will equip with awareness about how things get done around here and why. What works about it, what doesn’t and what isn’t said that is valuable to solving not only immediate problems but long term emerging ones.
Systemic approaches involve understanding the impact and potential of the many people within a system and its implication on us as managers, our team and in return us on it.
This bigger (systemic) view can assist managers in embracing difference, managing from a higher-level understanding as well as everyday outcome perspective. It can reduce personalised frustrations that managers experience as they find themselves interrupting behaviours from a personal/productivity perspective and not from an understanding perspective.
When managers equip ourselves with basic systemic oversight such as how does this effect the “system” as well as how does the “system” affective the individual, it can start to empower a manager to see beyond a problem, beyond a person’s behaviour and low performance into what is enabling this behaviour, what is the wider context and what can we harness from this experience.
Often as managers we fear not “managing” a situation effectively and so takes logical action that can be explained and meets policies and procedures. Often deleting the human element of the challenge arising however most challenges that arise for people involve emotion and unconscious feelings, the context and culture of an organisation, internal often unconscious beliefs and the impacts of these on behaviours and identifiable problems.
Ways to incorporate system approaches in your management style to bring a more rounded approach to challenges that arise in your team, may be helpful at any stage however in experience impassable moments can often be aided by this approach and new insight and direction, as well as healthier inclusive approaches can emerge.
Birds eye view - Take a moment and look at the situation from the employee’s perspective.
· Ask yourself what don’t I know about what is happening for them?
· How does our organisation enable this situation?
· How does it need this situation?
· How do I enable this situation? And What is this situation telling me about the system.
Ask questions - Ask, ask ,ask so often we are afraid to ask questions because the answer may not be what we are comfortable hearing personally or professionally. Ask anyway, managing ourselves is key to any people management. Offer safe places to discuss what is really happening and, let it settle for a few days before you promise to take action or take any action. Usually people want to be heard but fear offering it. Ask, then be with it and reflect.
See people - When we see people as people and not simply as resources we have been sanctioned, we start to look beyond the role they are in and see how they can further support the system. We see strengths and we respect what is within our team, instead of what is not. We respect the different approaches that each team member bring, we respect the personality differences and we engage in relationships, not simply have them. I would go a step further and say we not only respect the difference, we name it and appreciate the different elements involved. Teams need variety.
Often I hear managers say, “the job is fine, its people that drive me nuts”. As managers, the people are our job and if that’s done right then the job is done well.
With an under focus on the place we take within an organisation and the synergy that can occur or be disrupted, we are enabled to go beyond personal perspectives and limiting beliefs, to a broader, clearer sense of our purpose.